At the heart of this Bulgarian icon are the Mother of God and Jesus, both adorned with crowns. They are flanked by the Apostles Peter and Paul. A cross, inscribed with the phrase “Jesus Christ conquers,” and a skull, lies at the forefront of the scene.
Saint Apostle Peter, originally named “Simon,” was born in the quaint town of Bethsaida, situated on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. He was a son of Jonah from the tribe of Naftali. Simon resided in Kaphernaum with his wife, earning a modest living as a fisherman alongside his brother Andrew, who was a disciple of St. John the Forerunner. Jesus renamed Simon as Cephas (Jn 1,42-43), meaning “rock” (derived from the Greek petra or Petros), a transformation that marked a significant turning point in his life. Thereafter, Peter followed Jesus, witnessing the miracles he performed across Galilee and the proclamation of the forthcoming kingdom of God. Nonetheless, Peter didn’t entirely renounce his profession as a fisherman. After a sermon in the synagogue of Caphernaum, Peter invited Jesus to his home, where Jesus healed Peter’s fever-stricken mother-in-law. In his final act of devotion, Peter chose to be crucified upside down in Nero’s circus, expressing his unworthiness to die in the same manner as Jesus Christ. Saint Peter is revered as the patron of numerous professions and conditions, ranging from bricklayers, butchers, fishermen, and locksmiths to those battling obsession, epilepsy, fever, and snakebites.
Born around 10 AD in Tarsos, Cilicia, Saint Apostle Paul, initially named “Saul,” was part of a Jewish diaspora community fervently upholding their ancestral traditions. Saul, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, inherited Roman citizenship from his father, granting him a privileged status. He was nurtured amidst the cosmopolitan environment of Tarsus and the influences of Hellenistic culture. Saul’s parents sent him to Jerusalem to study law, where he became a Pharisee and studied under the esteemed Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder. Saul harbored a strong disdain for Christians, seeing them as dangerous transgressors of the law. On his journey to Damascus, Saul experienced a divine revelation. Blinded by a celestial light, he heard the voice of Jesus questioning his persecution of Christians. This marked the beginning of Saul’s conversion to Christianity. A disciple named Ananias restored Saul’s sight and baptized him, marking Saul’s transformation to Paul. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul began preaching about Jesus as the Son of God, causing much astonishment among the Jews who knew him as a fervent adversary of Christianity. Today, Saint Paul is revered as the patron saint of professions including theologians, pastors, weavers, basket makers, and workers, and is invoked for protection against fears, anxiety, ear troubles, cramps, snakebites, lightning, and hail.